The ‘new normal’ is accelerating sustainability

Consumers are increasingly conscientious. People genuinely care about their impact on the world, both environmentally and socially. We demonstrate this through our choices and actions, whether it be walking to work and taking public transport, or buying locally produced food and investing our money in companies which “do good”. 

Businesses have wised up to this and those that haven’t should do, pronto. This is because there is a real need to do so if we are to thrive in a sustainable world, and because there is likely to be a significant inter-generational wealth transfer over the coming decade as money is passed from the old to the younger generations. Younger people will increasingly look to put their money into responsible businesses so CEOs should be looking to get ahead of the curve. 

This week, the former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, suggested that investors could be the “critical link” in efforts to encourage businesses to do their bit to fight climate change. He recommended that shareholders should have a say on a businesses’ climate plans, which could lead to better and quicker enforcement than macro strategies and regulations. 

New technologies, many of which are being born from the pandemic, are making it easier than ever to improve ESG practices on both the local and macro scales. A benefit (if we can point to positives at all) of the pandemic is that we have all had to rely on digital services, many of which we now know can fully replace former ways of doing things. In the business world, this has led to a vast reduction of daily commuting and air travel. 

The UK Department for Transport reported that, on the first day of lockdown, there was a reduction in motor vehicle transport to 69% of normal levels, and reached a low of 23% by mid-April. Where possible, business moved online. Meetings, sales pitches, strategy sessions, board communications instantly transitioned from in-person to online.

In the ‘normal world’ pre-Covid-19, it wasn’t unusual for businesspeople to fly across the world for a meeting, or even just to sign a document. But without this being an option, the pandemic has accelerated the transition to remote working, and reducing travel to where necessary rather than as standard. Now we know that a lot of activities can be done digitally, shareholders will increasingly raise eyebrows at board members and executive teams travelling around the world to meetings or flying to conferences. They just aren’t necessary. We’ve also seen that event and conference attendance has been higher than ever when virtual – it’s win win. 

But being responsible can also be achieved even on the smallest scales, such as printing less paper and choosing to use online video platforms over travelling to meet in person – something we’re all now used to since the lockdowns imposed by Covid-19. 

Take board meetings. Think how many hundreds of pages of paper are printed off, for members to fumble through for a few hours before they’re discarded. Even everyday meetings, the regular catch ups and planning sessions, where PowerPoint presentations are printed off, yet also on screen for us all to see. Tech enables us all to download all of the materials we need digitally, saving thousands of pieces of paper per person per year. 

Platforms like Shaparency act as a one-stop-shop for making those changes, which are accessible and actively change behaviours. Not only does Shaparency lessen the need for paper as all documents can be uploaded and minutes recorded to the platform, but it also plants a tree for the equivalent saved by not printing. Our customers can clearly see the impact that their switch to digital has on the environment on their dashboard. 

While we are still in the grips of the pandemic, it would be insensitive to discuss the ‘positives’ it has brought about. But we do know for sure that it has unprecedentedly accelerated the move to online services, drastically reducing the need for costly (both economically and environmentally) travel and reducing waste. In the ‘new normal’ which we’ll be entering, platforms like ours mean there are no excuses anymore.